One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

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Shukhov’s Spoon Symbol Analysis

Shukhov’s Spoon Symbol Icon
Shukhov’s spoon symbolizes his unique identity, and simultaneously his dedication to self-preservation, both physically and spiritually. The spoon is one of Shukhov’s only possessions and by far his most beloved. In the gulag, everything including boots, bowls, and living quarters are communal, so Shukhov’s spoon, his only possession, symbolizes his individuality. The camp is designed to strip the prisoners of their individual identities, so in a sense, the Zeks move inward to maintain their identities. The way Shukhov hides his spoon in his boot, alludes to the way in which his identity is hidden by his external appearance and circumstances, but remains incredibly close to him at all times. It is no mistake that this symbol of identity is connected to the act of eating. Some of Shukhov’s strongest principals are connected to his eating habits—he takes off his hat, does not eat the fish eyes, and never licks bowls—and these principals are essential to Shukhov’s sustained sense of personal identity. The spoon is also a tool Shukhov has connected with sustenance, and the spoon works in one sense to bring food to his mouth, but in a deeper sense to feed his identity by allowing him the means to maintain his principals.
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Shukhov’s Spoon Symbol Timeline in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

The timeline below shows where the symbol Shukhov’s Spoon appears in One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Section1 (Shukhov wakes up to Kolya taking Shukhov’s temperature)
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Shukhov takes his spoon, which he calls “his baby”, from his boot and takes off his hat before he... (full context)
Section 7 (The news of the murdered stoop pigeons to Tyurin’s story)
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Competition vs. Camaraderie Theme Icon
Belief and Faith Theme Icon
...the bowls to him, but not until he finished his first. He takes out his spoon, removes his hat, and begins eating. Shukhov grows nervous as he sees Fetyukov standing in... (full context)
Section 11 (Tsezar’s arrival at the parcel room to the purchase of the tobacco)
Power and Authority Theme Icon
Identity, Principles, and Dignity Theme Icon
Time Theme Icon
...straight at the table, and does not lean forward toward his bowl, but brings his spoon all the way up to his mouth. U81 places his bread on a clean piece... (full context)